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Five "First Items" to Get You Started Selling

Easy transactions to break the ice and learn the ropes

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Many eBay members who have never sold a thing on eBay have more than a passing interest in selling but don't quite know how to get started. Sometimes the most difficult part of selling is simply knowing what to sell—especially if you don't own your own business or have other obvious caches of products in your life just waiting to be shifted to buyers.

The most typical bit of advice given to members in this situation is "just look around you—you'll find things to sell," but it isn't always easy to think in sellers' terms when you're not used to selling via online auctions, especially if you don't have "eBay business" aspirations.

If this sounds like you, here are five simple ideas for types of things to sell in your first eBay auction. They're common, present around most households, easy to ship, and not so high in value that you need to worry about serious transactional problems.

  1. Clothing and accessories. If you have clothing or accessories that you don't wear anymore but that "still have a lot of life in them," these can be an ideal first eBay sale item. Vintage clothing and more substantial pieces (leather coats, designer jackets, vintage jeans, evening shoes, hats) tend to do well on eBay, while more everyday items are a tougher market. Be sure to point out in your description any defects, wear areas, or idiosyncrasies about the garment in question when you list it. A clear photo (or preferably several from varying angles) is/are also essential for this type of sale.

  2. Household furnishings, decor, or antiques. This is the perfect chance to get rid of the hideous trout lamp that Uncle Ed sent your husband for Christmas or the talking alarm clock that doesn't ever quite manage to wake you up. Antiques and unusual items rule this group, so don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that something is too retro, too kitschy, or too ugly for eBay. The more bizarre, unique, or "interesting" the item, the better it can potentially do. On the other hand, don't bother trying to sell anything that can still be had at the local department store in large quantities and at low prices.

  3. No-longer-used consumer electronics. The old MP3 player that you never use because you bought a nice new iPod falls into this category, as do the handheld TV that you never carry and the cell phone that you've had hanging around since you switched carriers. If the item works, includes all necessary accessories (rechargers, cables, and the like) and is in reasonably good condition, it's a candidate for eBay selling. Just be sure not to get your hopes too high about price: consumer electronics lose a large percentage of their value as you use them. Figure on getting about 20 percent of your original investment. It might not sound like a lot, but if it's just sitting in a closet anyway, now's the time to post it at auction and free up some storage space.

  4. Your own hobby or craft items. If you have a crafty hobby of almost any kind—whether it's making oven mitts, knit caps, hand-crafted tennis rackets, or ships-in-bottles, eBay can be a great place to turn a nice profit. Hand-made goods that show skill and workmanship often draw top dollar and a loyal collectibles crowd on eBay. Be sure to include plenty of photos in your listing, along with details about the methods that you use and your personal approach to creating these items—these types of buyers want to buy your story as much as they want to buy your goods, so don't disappoint them.

  5. Locally made goods. Every area of the world is home to at least a few unique products or resources, whether they're edibles, renewable flora and fauna, local indigenous crafts, or something else. Salt candies from the mountain west, hot sauces from the south, maple syrup in bulk from the northeast, native crafts from the reservation—or if you're outside the U.S.A. just about anything you're willing to ship to North America—are all fair game. Use your imagination and remember that there are people all around the world who might be interested in buying something that people in your neck of the woods take for granted.

It's a pretty simple list, but it's also a pretty simple prospect: for your first sale on eBay, find something that has value, isn't so common that people would rather just buy it at the local store, is functional and in good condition, is easy to ship, and isn't worth so much either monetarily or sentimentally that it's an overwhelming task for your first sale.

Remember that photos always help, detailed descriptions (with any needed caveats) are absolutely essential, shipment, carefully packed, follows soon after the auction ends, and of course remember also that buyers are people, too—people that may want to buy whatever you have around to sell.

Most of all, don't wait any longer—just do it. Identify an item that could stand to go and list it. If the auction closes with bidder(s), you've made your first eBay sale. If it doesn't draw any bids, not to worry—nothing ventured, nothing gained. It's not a popularity contest. Find something else and try again.

Once you start listing, it's only a matter of time until your first sale (which almost always occurs on a seller's first try). Once your first sale is complete, your second one won't be far behind.

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